Zakhar Prilepin’s novel-in-stories, Sin, has become a literary phenomenon in Russia, where it was published in 2007. It has been hailed as the epitome of the spirit of the opening decade of the 21st century, and was called “the book of the decade” by the prestigious Super Natsbest Award jury. Now available for the first time in English, it not only embodies the reality of post-perestroika Russia, but also shows that even in this reality, just like in any other, it is possible to maintain a positive attitude while remaining human.
Zakharka is young, strong, in love with love and with life’s random, telling moments. In the episodes of his life, presented here in non-chronological order, we see him as a little boy, a lovelorn teenager, a hard-drinking grave-digger, a nightclub bouncer, a father, and a soldier in Chechnya. He even writes poetry, and his stylistically varied verses are presented in the penultimate chapter of the book. Loving life, he looks boldly, and even with curiosity, into the face of death – taking pictures of the deceased at a funeral, staring with agitation at the entrails of a just-disembowelled pig, chronicling the death of a childhood friend – and values the freedom of not fearing his own end. It is family that ultimately defines happiness for Zakharka; but it is also family that makes him realize, on the desolate Chechen border, that his love for them has deprived him of this freedom.
Sin offers a fascinating glimpse into the recent Russian past, as well as its present, with its unemployment, poverty, violence, and local wars – social problems that may be found in many corners of the world. Zakhar Prilepin presents these realities through the eyes of Zakharka, taking us along on the life-affirming journey of his unforgettable protagonist.